The Phare Ponleu Selpak people have been busy, with a range of international tours and appearances scheduled over the next four months – but there’s also a special delight in store for Siem Reap audiences.
Galaxy Khmer Project – the circus meets Cambodian Space Project extravaganza – is going to Berlin and Norway in January 2014. But before that, Reapers will be able to see it for themselves when it comes to Phare, The Cambodian Circus on December 21 and 22.
“The project is a unique collaboration between art director Michael Laub, psychedelic rock band The Cambodian Space Project, the German director Mark Eberle and musicians and dancers of Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang,” says Huot Dara, the Phare Siem Reap co-director.
“It is a dynamic, charismatic and insightful journey through the music and sounds of Khmer rock and roll history. At the centre, a diva illuminates the story through song and dance, channeling the divas of old.”
Cambodian Space Project will be supported on stage by Phare musicians playing traditional instruments, as well as dancers accompanying the songs. There will also be film projections of archive footage and film shot of circus artists performing at Phare Ponleu Selpak.
Also, in the short term, spooky new show Chills, a ghost story about Cambodian culture and belief in the afterlife will open in Siem Reap on October 1, fittingly, just in time for Pchum Ben.
Huot says, “It’s about ghosts haunting villagers, mainly the youth at night. They have a fun adventure the next day at school pretending to be ghosts, scaring each other using impressive acrobatic and other circus skills.”
Also, over the coming months, the theatre and circus school is taking shows to Japan, France, Portugal, Germany and Norway.
Artists from the theatre side of the school are already in France for The Terrible but Unfinished Story of Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia, a Khmer language adaptation of Hélène Cixous’s 1985 play which, according to Phare’s press material, explores “a difficult page in Cambodia’s history.” Even longer than the title is the duration: seven hours, Despite its length, Huot Dara says the play has been well-received. It’s already a sell-out and has been known to move audiences to tears.
“It is a co-production between Le Théâtre du Soleil and Phare Ponleu Selpak,” says Huot. “In 2011 artists toured the first part of the play, in 2012 and 2013 they worked on the second part. Now they have finished the whole story and it became seven hours in length. I have heard that many people cry during the show, those who know Cambodia.”
There are 30 actors in the play, each of them taking on three or four different roles, and the play is performed in Khmer with French and English subtitles.
Having opened on September 19 with three performances in Lisbon, the troupe has now moved to France taking in Limoges, Paris, Lyon and Valence. They will finish up in Toulouse on November 23.
Huot says the troupe would like to be able to perform the play in Cambodia, but as of yet have not received the authorisation to do so, due to the political nature of the story.
This month Phare is also taking a circus show, My Village, to Japan. The show, about a Cambodian village, will be performed in Little World theme park in Inuyama city, Aichi Prefecture for three months.
“It is a special production created for Japan with the purpose of introducing Cambodian culture and arts to a wider audience,” says Huot. “Little World is a big park on a mountain, and the artists will perform almost every day a few times a day.”